Bill Miller

Bill Miller

 Nashville, Tennessee, USA
BandFolkAcoustic

Two-time GRAMMY Award winner for Best Native American Music Album, Bill Miller is one of the nation’s most notable Native American artists. Bill is a singer/songwriter who has been communicating his rich heritage to America for 20 years in the form of dynamic performances, workshops and lectures

Biography

A Mohican Indian from northern Wisconsin, Bill Miller has long been one of the most admired figures in the Native American music arena and beyond. As an award-winning recording artist, performer, songwriter, activist, and painter, he's been a voice for the voiceless, a link between two great and clashing civilizations. On SPIRIT RAIN, he walks the path of reconciliation in a set of fourteen heartfelt songs and evocative instrumentals.

Co-produced by Bill and Michael von Muchow, and written or co-written entirely by Bill, SPIRIT RAIN took the singer back to his roots. It was recorded at Actual Sound Studios in La Crosse, WI, not far from the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation he called home. "It was very different from being in a media center like L.A. or Nashville," says Bill. "Everyone turned off their cell phones. My buddies and I would go fishing on the Mississippi River. The recording was low-tech too: 16-tracks, no digital. I could have pushed it technically, but I felt closer to the spirit doing it this way."

Digging deep with music and art is nothing new to Bill Miller. With music, he discovered a way out of the entrenched poverty of the reservation, and he has used his talent to build bridges where ever he goes. The son of Mohican-German parents, Bill grew up amid the streams and woodlands of the reservation (his tribe is properly called Mahicanuk, which means People From Where The Waters Are Never Still). Even then, water made a deep impression. "I've always been connected to water," says Bill. "My reservation was in northern Wisconsin, so I grew up near lakes and rivers. There's a mystical energy in water. Every Native creation story has water in it."

Music was an also essential part of life, and Bill (whose Indian name, Fush-Ya Heay Ka, means "bird song") learned traditional songs at an early age. "We didn't have much," he recalls. "There was nothing but woods, trout and a Zenith radio that picked up AM stations across the country. I'd hear Barbra Streisand, The Beatles, Stones, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan. I became a fan of all kinds of good music and the emotion it can capture."

At age 12, Bill got his first guitar. Although he played in teen rock bands for a few years, he soon tired of it. Trading his electric guitar for an acoustic, he began to play folk music and bluegrass, as well as taking up the Native American flute, which he came to master. "With the flute, the breath speaks for you," says Bill. "It's a faith instrument, a spirit instrument." For Bill, the turning point came when he attended a Pete Seeger concert shortly after leaving the reservation to study art at the Layton School of Art and Design in Milwaukee (he later attended the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse). The experience inspired him to move to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter.

In the early days, Bill often faced virulent racism because of his Native American heritage, but he persevered. In time, he made tremendous inroads, writing songs with the likes of Nancy Griffith, Peter Rowan and Kim Carnes, and sharing the bill with such diverse artists as Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, the BoDeans, Richie Havens, and Arlo Guthrie. He got a big break when Tori Amos asked him to be her opening act on the Under The Pink U.S. and Canadian tour. The tour, which sold out venues across the country, was extended to over two hundred shows.

Despite some setbacks, including battles with alcoholism and family tragedies, Bill never stopped growing as a singer, songwriter, and performer. His long recording career includes such landmark albums as Loon Mountain And Moon (1991), Red Road (1994), Reservation Road, Raven In The Snow (1995), Ghost Dance (1999), and The Art Of Survival (2000). His song "Tumbleweed," co-written with Peter Rowan, was included on the 1990 album Dustbowl Children.

Ghost Dance brought Bill some long-deserved recognition at the 2000 Native American Music Awards. He took home five Nammys that night, including Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, and Song of the Year. With up to 200 days a year on the road, Bill and his band continue to make friends across the country and around the world. It may sound grueling, but for Bill Miller it's all about the joy of sharing music.

Discography

Cedar Dream Songs - Paras Recordings - 2004
A Sacred Gift - Paras Recordings - 2002
Spirit Rain - Paras Recordings - 2002
The Art of Survival - Vanguard - 2000
Reservation Road Live - Vanguard - 2000
Loon, Mountain and Moon - Vanguard - 2000
Ghostdance - Vanguard - 1999
Native Suite - Warner Bros. - 1996
Raven In The Snow - Reprise - 1995
The Red Road - Reprise - 1993

Set List

90 minutes of mostly original songs